Carlo Mancasola, Kazumi Aihara and John-Peter Cruz. in Ayano. Photo by Jenny Graham.
Getting a new play off the ground is a difficult feat, with almost overwhelming financial, creative and logistical challenges. And Ayano, by Chris Collins, having its world premiere at The Actors Company, raises the challenges through its ambition. The play features a cast of seven, a lovely set that includes intricate, if confusing, projections, and a storyline that attempts to address domestic violence, immigration and making it in show business.
Ayano (Kazumi Aihara) is an aspiring Japan-born actress married to Charlie (Carlo Mancasola), an American veteran of the war in Afghanistan. Early on we learn that Charlie has been abusive and adulterous, and was recently laid off from his job. Despite his own shortcomings and lack of income, he and his brother Tom (Gabriel Pranter) denigrate Ayano and her acting ambitions. The marriage is looking shaky.
A further complication: Ayano has gotten herself into debt with a sleazy older producer, Peter (Glenn Ratcliffe), who tricked her into signing an onerous contract and is now applying financial and sexual pressure. Rather than involve her husband at any point—including reviewing the original contract—Ayano turns to a friend, Julie (Bara Kim). Julie advises and frets but ultimately is helpless to change her friend’s trajectory.
Ayano’s quest for fame and fortune—or at least a role and a paycheck—overpowers her ability to make logical decisions, communicate honestly with her husband or consider the needs of anyone outside herself. She neglected to return to Japan to be with her dying father (Hiro Matsunaga), who now haunts her. She fantasizes about her husband’s Marine buddy Carl (John-Peter Cruz).
The script features dialogue as exposition (“I remember when you came back wounded from Afghanistan”) and an unlikely situation clearly plotted to go off the rails. There’s a soap opera feel to many of the interactions, such as when Charlie tells Ayano, “I can face the Taliban, but I’m afraid of losing you”—right before threatening to call Immigration on her.
There is much to appreciate about Ayano, but additional work is still needed to take it beyond its opening run.
Ayano runs through August 7 at The Other Space @ The Actors Company, 916-A N. Formosa Ave. in West Hollywood. Showtimes are Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00pm, Sundays at 3:00. Tickets are $25 and are available here. A portion of proceeds will be donated to the organization Stop Asian Hate.